05 Feb, 2010
Hyper parents and coddled kids
So who watched the Hyper Parents on CBC’s Doc Zone last night?
Some random thoughts while I drink my coffee:
Hyper parents and coddled kids have been around since the dawn of time, when cavemoms protected their biggest and strongest sons to help ensure long and prosperous lives. I think these feelings are unavoidable, and even hard-wired. We want to protect our kids because we love them and want them to survive in this world of ours. It’s in our genes.
The thing that’s different between us and the cavemoms is the technology available at our disposal: cellphones, GPS units, nanny cams, software to enable computer keystroke logging etc.
Here’s a thought. As a kid, how did you feel when your parents read your diary? Or snooped in on your phone calls? Or went through your pockets? I bet you felt pretty crappy. So why would today’s parents want to do this to their kids? What kind of relationship does this create?
When I was in j-school I was part of a team of reporters who put together a series of articles about gambling for our little newspaper. This wasn’t a university or class newspaper, it was actually distributed to the larger community. (I should know, because the students also did the distribution part.)
My article was about the local bingo hall, and to make a long story short, I got in trouble for it. I had hung out at the bingo hall for a long time, people watching and making notes. I deliberately picked the one person in the entire place that looked, well, let’s just say she was the one who looked like she was most likely to be a bingo fanatic.
I interviewed her and she gave me a fabulous quote about how dangerous it was to play bingo… because the winners are paid in cash and sometimes BAD GUYS wait for you to leave and they jump you in the parking lot and steal your cash.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I corroborated this part of the story with anyone, and my editor (the teacher!) got a phone call from an angry bingo hall owner. I was wrong for running blindly with this juicy little tidbit, but I also remember the teacher telling me that I shouldn’t have picked one bingo-crazed lady to represent the entire world of bingo.
That’s what I felt when I was watching this documentary at times. I know where the producers for this doc are coming from (I graduated from the journalism program with the goal of being a documentary film producer, so I get it) and it truly is a double-edged sword. On one hand you only have a certain amount of time to get your point across so you want to pick great examples to prove your point. On the other, doing so is almost unfair, and makes your sources amount to one huge generalization.
These parents didn’t represent all parents. I hope the non-parents out there get it. There are an awful lot of us who are not enrolling our children in wall-to-wall extracurricular activities to pad future resumes, praising them up and down for everything they do, or planning lavish birthday parties.
I would have liked to see a conversation between a “normal” parent and one of the helicopter parents. Now wouldn’t that be interesting?
I liked Rebecca’s comment in my short post about this the other day. We’re all a little hyper sometimes, aren’t we? It depends on the situation. My mother thinks I’m crazy that I provide homework help when my kids need it. She just doesn’t get it.
There is a fine line, isn’t there? What matters is the big picture overall. OVERALL, are you the type of parent who lets their kid do it for themselves? Do you give your kid age-appropriate responsibilities? Who’s in charge? You? Or your kid?
There’s a scene near the beginning of this documentary of a mom and a $4000 party she planned for her one year old daughter. Ironically (!), it’s a princess party, complete with a giant custom birthday cake and a Disney-costumed storytelling princess. The mom said that this party was actually very middle-of-the-road. If that’s the middle, what else is there?
What I found the most interesting about this documentary is to see how these coddled kids end up. Parents calling up the university, decorating their workspaces, negotiating salaries? Yowza.
These poor parents think they’re helping and protecting their kids, but they’re really not doing them any favours. In fact, they’re just setting them up for failure later in life.
We parents have to let go. It’s hard, but we have to do it. And it starts when they are small.
For my next post I am going to jot down a few niggling thoughts I’ve had about how to play with our kids. It’s something I have been dwelling on for awhile now and it’s time I get it down.
I think this whole issue starts with play … what do you think?
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